FAYETTEVILLE - "Baby Tusk", the next generation of live mascot for the University of Arkansas, made a public appearance at selected athletic facilities on campus Tuesday.
The newest member of the Razorback family accompanied his human family, the Stokes family, taking time to meet people at the Broyles Athletic Center, Barnhill Arena and the Razorback Foundation.
Baby Tusk walked in on a leash and entertained eager on-lookers with a few squeals and tricks like sitting on command for apples.
Born Feb. 20, Baby Tusk is the son of a female Russian Boar named Sassy and Tusk II, who passed away of natural causes in January, days after the Razorbacks' nail-biting win over East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
The reigns of the Razorback mascots was passed over to Tusk III, brother of Tusk II and uncle of Baby Tusk, who will be known as Tusk IV when he takes over.
At just over three months old, Baby Tusk weighs about 50 pounds and resides at the Stokes family farm near Dardanelle, Ark.
Keith and Julie Stokes and their family have been involved with Tusk for several years and have many stories to tell about the mascot. One of Keith Stokes' favorite stories came with a trip to the 2008 Cotton Bowl. He recounted that story in a recent edition of Inside Razorback Athletics where he told the tale of stopping for gas just outside of Dallas.
A young couple pulled up and asked if they could take pictures with Tusk. The couple noted that they were headed to North Carolina but saw the Tusk trailer and turned around to follow it just to have a chance to meet the famous mascot.
"It just hit home for me that day how important the mascot program is to Arkansas," Stokes said after the encounter. "That's why we do everything possible to give Tusk the best care so fans everywhere will see him in the best possible light.
"That's my biggest goal. To have people say they don't know who takes care of Tusk, but whoever does it, is doing a good job."
Only a few universities maintain a live mascot program. References to a live mascot appearing at games date back to the early 1900s, soon after the university changed its nickname from Cardinals to Razorbacks in 1910. The Tusk line dates back to the 1960s, and includes stories of escape and adventure by mascots such as Big Red III and Ragnar.
In 2008, Arkansas Athletics, through the Razorback Foundation and with the support of Razorback Sports Properties, established The Tusk Fund, a fund-raising effort with a goal of creating a live mascot program that is the finest in the nation.
"The Tusk Fund is a voluntary way for our fans throughout the state and around the country to help us support our live mascot program," Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long says. "The Razorback mascot is a powerful brand and unique to the University of Arkansas, and we want our program to be among the best."
Contributions of any amount are welcomed and most appreciated. Those donations will go toward assisting the Stokes family in the care, feeding and providing even greater living and traveling accommodations for Tusk. More financial support will also allow Tusk to attend more Razorback sporting events as well as help to fund a legacy program for breeding future Tusks, thereby guaranteeing the longevity of the live mascot program.
Fans may contribute at the Tusk Trailer wherever the mascot appears or by mailing their donations to the Tusk Trust Fund in care of the Razorback Foundation.
Donations may be sent to the Razorback Foundation at 1295 Razorback Road, Suite A, Fayetteville AR 72701.